Feng shui at the White House

By Thomas F. Schwartz

A popular approach to room design is feng shui, or creating the right harmony between the room, the furnishings, and the people who use the space.  When Herbert and Lou Hoover moved into the White House on March 4, 1929 it took some time and many rearrangements of the furniture before the White House felt like a home.  In a May 25, 1929 letter to her two sons, First Lady Lou Hoover describes their efforts at personalizing the rooms:

                “We are beginning to feel perfectly at home.  Daddy has moved all the upstairs furniture once, and most of it twice.

He seems definitely set—his in the corner dressing room and I in the big middle one, which really is much nicer for me.  We changed the bedroom on the other side of the ‘west sitting-room’ into our family sitting room—for said west was only the end of the hall at best. (The little corner bedroom beyond it Charlie Field is occupying now).

Daddy wanted his study all changed about—which disclosed the fact that the walls were not painted behind the bookcases!  So to get that done he moved out, into the next-door big ‘blue bedroom,’ said bed and some furniture disappearing temporarily.  Now he likes that room so much better, he wants to stay there!  His old study can’t be made into a bedroom, because there were no bathrooms handy, handier than the third floor.  I don’t like the idea of running way down the hall to the family sitting room.  So the present suggestion is to turn the end-the-hall sitting room into the grand blue bedroom (or the mid Victorian black walnut bed room).  Turn the old study into the drawing room—square—and the drawing room into the family living room.  (It has a door into my workroom—so I can go into it without going into the halls at all).  Which will keep us moving furniture for a month!

Lou Hoover’s sketch of the furniture arrangements in the White House.



So there is the way we look as tho’ we were going to be.  The housekeeper moving upstairs.  It gives us the same number of bedrooms on this floor, but one of them is like Allan’s, with a little dressing room attached, instead of the big blue one.  So there is still room for all of you here at once!

Much love,


This was written just as Allan started south, and was meant for all three of you [son Herbert and wife Margaret, and son Allan].

You will be kind to me if you send it on to him—which will save me writing another letter.

Dear Allan,

I’ve been intending to mail this to you for weeks.  Sorry!


The letter went to son Herbert and his wife Margaret (Peg) but clearly the best of intentions delayed forwarding it on to Allan.

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